Sep 19 2013
By Khaula al-Ukaili
Azzaman, September 19, 2013
Efforts to revive the marshlands in southern Iraq are not bearing fruit and the marsh Arabs say they can no longer make a living relying on their wetland.
Most of the Iraqi marshes, which covered large swathes of land, were dried up when the former regime diverted the flow of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and forced their inhabitants to leave.
When a U.S.-led coalition invaded Iraq in 2003 and removed the regime, the sluices built to block water from reaching the marshes were removed and many marsh Arabs returned to their villages.
But today, they say water is still scarce and there is not enough fish left in the marshes for them to make a living.
The Ministry of Science and Technology, which supervises the growth of animals and plants in the marshes, has suggested turning the remaining wetland into a natural reserve to lure foreign tourists and generate income for the impoverished marsh Arabs.
It is not clear whether the government will accept the proposal, but local press reports speak of worsening conditions for the marsh inhabitants.
“The new democracy has failed to restore life to the marshes on which we used to solely rely for income as our main job has always been fishing,” Majed Hameed said.
“The fish available is hardly sufficient to meet our daily needs. There is not much left to sell,” he added.
Umm Karrar said marsh Arabs have not benefited from the massive resources the government has reportedly allocated to develop the area.
“We hear of hundreds of billions of dinars but we do not know where it goes and when you look around you see nothing that has changed for the better,” she said.
She said when the catch was plentiful she always had enough fish to sell and “earn a lot of money.”
However, those days were no more, she added.
Science and technology ministry says the best solution is to turn the marshes into a tourist attraction and declare the whole area a natural reserve.
“The marshes are splendid and if rehabilitated and developed and turned into a natural reserve with modern amenities, they will certainly attract foreign tourists and generate income for the marsh dwellers,” said Ibrahim al-Kubaisi, the ministry’s director-general of agricultural research.
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